When a police officer pulls you over, they cannot simply arrest you on a whim that you have been drinking. Instead, they must have probable cause to believe that you violated the law by either having a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.08 percent or having your abilities impaired by alcohol. If your BAC is lower than 0.08 percent, the officer might conduct additional tests to see your level of impairment. These roadside tests are referred to as “field sobriety tests” or FSTs.
Three Standardized FSTs
While there are several different tests that officers have used to test for intoxication, there are three tests standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These are the most commonly used field sobriety tests in current times, and they are as follows:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
The officer performs this test to check for involuntary eye movements called nystagmus. The officer should use a small object such as a pen or light and ask you to follow the object with only your eyes.
Walk and Turn
This test allows the officer to check your ability to follow directions, walk in a straight line, and keep your balance. It involves taking nine steps heel-to-toe on a line in one direction, turning, and then repeating the nine steps in the other direction.
This FST measures your ability to pay attention, balance, and control your coordination. The officer will ask you to stand with your feet together until ordered to lift one foot six inches from the ground. While on one leg, you must count 1001, 1002, 1003, and so on. The officer will be watching whether you sway, have to use your arms to balance, put your foot down, and more.
Field Sobriety Tests and DUI Cases
If an officer believes that you “failed” your field sobriety tests, they will likely arrest you, and the prosecutor can issue charges of driving under the influence (DUI). It is important to seek help from a criminal defense lawyer who knows how to challenge FST results as reported by the officer.
Some defense strategies might include:
- You were – rightfully – nervous and it affected your performance
- The roadside conditions affected your performance
- The officer did not follow standardized protocol when administering the tests
Many people successfully challenge the results of field sobriety tests, and there might not be other evidence to prove that you were impaired beyond a reasonable doubt. This can often lead to the dismissal of your DUI charges.
Contact a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney as Soon as Possible
The Law Office of Mark G. Rodriguez defends clients who are facing DUI charges or other criminal allegations. DUI convictions come with serious and lasting penalties in Florida, and you want to ensure you receive the best possible outcome in your case. If you have been arrested for DUI or another offense, call 813-227-9642 or contact us online as soon as possible so an experienced DUI defense lawyer can evaluate your case.